Bravo, Congressman Bravo!

Bravo, Congressman Bravo!

 

ALTERNATIVE VIEW
by

Joey Dulay
President of PECIA
Anti-smoking advocate

The Philippine E-Cigarette Industry Association (PECIA) lauds and supports Rep. Anthony Bravo (Coop-NATTCO Party-list) for his progressive and courageous stand on tobacco harm reduction. Bravo is the author of House Resolution No. 973, which urges the Department of Health (DOH) to adopt harm reduction measures, particularly the use of electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes or “vapes”), as an alternative for smokers as part of the country’s National Tobacco Control Strategy.

During a hearing held on September 25, 2017 the House of Representatives Joint Committee on Health and Trade and Industry adopted the “Bravo resolution”—a fitting name for a bold and groundbreaking initiative. I must acknowledge the four forward-looking legislators who supported the Bravo resolution: Rep. Winston Castelo (Quezon City, 2nd district), Rep. Rodel Batocabe (AKO BICOL Party-list), Rep. Estrellita Suansing (Nueva Ecija, 1st district) and Rep. Sol Aragones (Laguna, 3rd district).

In his sponsorship speech during the joint committee hearing, Bravo cited the appeal of Dr. Konstantinos E. Farsalinos who urged the Philippine government to “create a regulatory framework for e-cigarettes that is reasonable, proportionate, and realistic.” A leading expert on tobacco harm reduction and e-cigarettes, Farsalino visited Manila in April 2017 to speak on tobacco harm reduction and e-cigarettes in a series of media events. The Greek scientist stressed that appropriate regulation of e-cigarettes can help prevent serious sickness in and the premature death of millions of cigarette smokers in the Philippines.

Our legislators should take their cue from Bravo. In drafting H.R. 973, Bravo kept an open mind and objectively considered new evidence from independent international studies showing e-cigarettes are a less harmful alternative to tobacco and a viable smoking cessation tool. Bravo is now part of the growing number of legislators around the world who support novel forms of tobacco harm reduction such as e-cigarettes. These include, among others, Senator James Paterson of the State of Victoria in the Australian Parliament and Congressman Duncan Hunter (California, Republican) of the U.S. Congress.

“I support our measures against cigarette smoking,” Bravo said during the hearing. “However, I am asking the DOH to consider all possible avenues to help smokers quit. I propose the United Kingdom model.”

Why is Bravo recommending the UK model? Last year, about 2 million people in England used e-cigarettes and completely stopped smoking while nearly half a million more were using e-cigarettes as an aid to stop smoking. In its Tobacco Control Plan 2017-2022, the British government clearly stated its intention to support consumers in stopping smoking and adopting the use of less harmful nicotine products, particularly e-cigarettes.

For the first time since its launch in 2012, the UK government’s annual smoking cessation campaign “Stoptober” is featuring e-cigarettes in its TV advertisements this year. This comes after e-cigarettes proved the most popular tool for quitting smoking during the Stoptober 2016 campaign. Stoptober, which begins on October 1 and ends on October 28, is the biggest mass quit attempt in the UK. The annual campaign has driven over one million quit attempts in the UK to date; it is based on research that shows that if a smoker can stop smoking for 28 days, he or she is five times more likely to stay smoke-free for good.

Stoptober offers a variety of smoking cessation aids, including nicotine replacement therapies such as patches and gum, and this year for the first time, e-cigarettes. It also provides a range of free support to help people quit smoking for good, including an app, daily e-mails, Facebook Messenger and encouragement from the Stoptober online community on Facebook. In addition, people can get expert face-to-face advice from local stop smoking services. It has been shown that smokers who use stop smoking aids and who get face-to-face support from their local stop smoking service are up to four times more likely to quit successfully.

The “Bravo resolution” is an important first step in convincing the DOH to consider e-cigarettes as an additional resource in the country’s National Tobacco Control Strategy. PECIA stands behind Rep. Anthony Bravo in urging the DOH to review the numerous independent international studies that show e-cigarettes are a less harmful alternative to conventional cigarettes and are viable smoking cessation aids.

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